Discussion: The Importance of Opposing Opinions on the Internet

In the age of the Internet, we have a unique opportunity: the ability to surround ourselves with people who think the exact same thing that we do.  On social media and our news feeds, we can create virtual bubbles of friends and followers we relate to.

In some ways, this is awesome!  Social media makes it super easy to connect with folks that might be harder to find in our actual communities.  My own favorite online community is made up of bloggers, book lovers, and blogging book lovers.  Talking about blogs in real life can sometimes earn me some side-eye, but here, it’s one thing we all share and love.

However, it also makes it easy to isolate yourself.  This can be harmful when it comes to some beliefs, like politics and religion.  Online communities that only accept a certain rhetoric can close your mind to other valid options and alienate you from the rest of the world.  Social media can exacerbate and polarize beliefs that could be tolerable in real life.

My sister and I talked about that briefly today.  We both clean out our friends list on Facebook periodically.  She and I both like to keep it pared down to people we would actually speak to if we saw them in real life.  People we wouldn’t speak to get chopped.

There’s a few people I keep on there, though, simply because they post a lot about viewpoints that differ from mine.  Sometimes I think I keep them because I enjoy feeling righteously outraged.  But I also think it’s important to remind myself that I know a lot of people with very different worldviews than mine.

A few days ago, the New York Times published these interviews of young people who attended a conservative leadership conference in DC.  The NYT leans liberal, but I liked the article, because it helped me understand some of the thought process behind why these particular young people believe what they believe.  Everywhere else I looked, however, people were complaining that the NYT gave a voice to conservatives.  A lot of commenters would rather the article had not been written at all.

That’s the main complaint I hear about the NYT.  I haven’t been reading it very long, so I don’t know much of its reporting history, but people seem to hate it because they make an effort to write articles from many political viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are extreme.  I think that’s a sign of good reporting.  I don’t want to see news from media who only report one viewpoint (why do you think I don’t watch Fox?).  All media is going to be biased, because we’re only human, but actively acknowledging viewpoints that don’t align with your own is healthy.  It keeps our minds more open.

That’s why I try to keep my social media fairly mixed.  Could I be doing a better job of that?  Always.  It would be much nicer to isolate myself in a liberalish bubble where I can always feel like I’m right.  But in a country whose biggest problem is arguably our extreme partisanship, that’s just not going to do much good at all.

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you try to keep your news and social media mixed? Is there anything about which you wouldn’t entertain an opposing opinion?

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

24 comments

  1. My primary social media is wordpress, and in general, I’ve found this community to be fairly like-minded on most political issues. I pick the blogs I follow based on the writing first and the subject matter second, so I wind up following others who post POVs that I take exception with now and then.(and I’m talking about nuanced exception, not flat-out disagreement). And because I’m a serial commenter, I’ll usually post my dissenting view. People don’t like this. I feel that wordpress, as a more cerebral community than facebook, is a place to foster dissension and debate. What I usually find is that I get silence in return, which then makes me self conscious. What do you think: Is the comments section of one’s blog a good place for some thought-out debate? Or is it simply rude to the blogger?

    • I feel like blogs are a great place for debate, honestly much better than other social media bc of the long-form nature of posts. Dissenting comments are definitely uncomfortable but if we aren’t willing to hear them, what’s the point?? You and most other commenters on WP that I have seen dissent in comments are extremely respectful about it and don’t resort to attacking the blogger. WP is about sharing ideas, and to me, that makes it a great place to disagree. While I sometimes don’t know how exactly to respond to a dissenting opinion (bc honestly I don’t get that many), when someone disagrees with me here I know they actually read my post and care about what I had to say enough to comment.

    • Yes, I agree with that, I’d rather have them read and disagree than not read at all. I feel like I’ve mildly dissented a couple of times on your blog and I always feel uncomfortable doing so, but why read if we can’t talk about it, right?

    • Exactly! Yeah, I think you have dissented here a few times, but honestly I can’t remember on what. I hope I have been as open-minded in the past as I want to be now.

  2. I do this too! I didn’t know very many people who did this. I like to listen to multiple news outlets and people with varied view points because as much as it shocks me, it is a reality check!

  3. I totally agree with you! It is a little worrying that we all exist within bubbles that reflect our own opinions. It can be difficult to listen to opinions that you strongly disagree with, but I still find it interesting and useful.

  4. I agree with you, to a point. I am willing to hear and read others viewpoints, as long as they are logical and non-toxic. Sometimes seeing too many/too much can become overwhelming and not that great for mental health etc.

  5. I don’t mind opposing viewpoints. However, I refuse to try and understand people who don’t think I have a right to control my own body, or people who think that non-whites don’t deserve to be treated as human.
    So I avoid most social media. Because obviously. It can be contentious.

  6. I like your approach of having to know of opposing views on a certain issue. It would definitely help us see things/people in a broader perspective. Some new light could be thrown upon matters of which we could not be aware of.

    Great post! 😃

  7. I really enjoyed this blog. I also try to listen to a variety of news sources, even Fox from time to time (I think they are consistently biased, but maybe that’s my own bias.) It helps with critical thinking to hear various positions. I try to do the same thing on social media. I don’t unfriend people, but I do admit to unfollowing people who go on political rants or post things that are obviously fake information. But to your point, it’s probably not obviously fake to people who don’t expose themselves to other points of view. I do the same thing here on WordPress. My original goal was to connect with a few people in similar situations, but ended up following people of varying ages, from different countries, and different views. It makes things more interesting.

    • That’s true; there is a dichotomy between a different opinion and obviously false claims. But looking for different opinions is probably a good way to learn to differentiate that, too. And I did the same thing on WordPress, too! I honestly don’t know how I found all the people I follow but I love that my reader is such a mix.

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